Sewol probe arrests Yoo’s 75-year-old brother
The prosecution yesterday raided the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries in Sejong City as part of an investigation to see if any collusion between the ministry and shipping agencies led to the Sewol ferry disaster.
The raid came after a 42-year-old ministry official, surnamed Jeon, was arrested Sunday for allegedly accepting a bribe when hosting a conference on ballast water in October in Busan.
Jeon is believed to have been given access to a bank account with 30 billion won ($29 million) in it from an event management company.
The prosecution also suspects that he abused his power to make related organizations such as the Korean Register of Shipping, a shipping classification and inspection agency, sponsor the conference.
Since the tragedy, suspicion has centered on whether the ferry’s manager conspired with government agencies to get approval to add cabins and cargo holds to the ferry, and with inspection agencies like the Korean Register of Shipping to certify its seaworthiness.
The Sewol was certified as being safe in February by the Korean Register of Shipping.
The police yesterday also arrested Yoo Byung-il, 75, the older brother of Yoo Byung-eun, 73, the patriarch of the family behind the Chonghaejin Marine Company, the operator of the Sewol ferry.
The 75-year-old used to be the head of the Geumsuwon, the headquarters of the Evangelical Baptist Church, better known as Guwonpa, or Salvation Sect, co-founded by Yoo Byung-eun and his father-in-law in the 1960s.
Police raided Geumsuwon Wednesday and Thursday.
According to the police, officers who were inspecting cars going to and from the religious compound found Yoo Byung-il being driven toward the compound in one of them and arrested him.
Although he was not previously pursued by authorities, the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office decided to investigate him yesterday for alleged embezzlement. The authorities did not rule out the possibility that the older Yoo was involved in the management of Chonghaejin Marine given that he was paid 2.5 million won a month by the company for giving advice.
Yoo Byung-il was previously summoned to the prosecutors’ office on May 11.
Yoo Byung-eun has been on the run since an arrest warrant for him was issued on May 21.
The prosecution updated personal details about the fugitive on Thursday, but corrected the information yesterday.
Previously, the prosecution said Yoo’s left middle finger was crooked based on records from Anyang Prison. Yoo Byung-eun served a four-year prison term there from 1991 for fraud.
However, the prosecution amended its announcement to say that Yoo’s right middle finger is crooked, not the left one. In addition, it said prison records say his height is 160 centimeters (5-foot-1), shorter than the 165 centimeters described on wanted posters.
The prosecution also said Yoo’s left index and ring fingers may be partly amputated. Prison record did not have his fingerprints for those fingers and were marked “injured.”
“Those details might help in our pursuit,” said a police officer, “so we are going to explain the same things at local neighborhood meetings.”
Also, a female believer of the sect known as Shin Eomma, or Mother Shin, turned herself in yesterday. The prosecution suspects she helped Yoo evade arrest.
Shin arrived at the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office in Gyeonggi yesterday afternoon. Prosecutors arrested her and handed her over to the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office.
She is known to be an official of a group of the sect’s female devotees. Authorities assume that Shin has engaged in monetary management for the church and also for Yoo’s family.
Another 58-year-old female member of the sect, Kim Myeong-suk, better known as Kim Eomma, or Mother Kim, has not been arrested, but the prosecution found her car and confiscated her expressway pass in the two-day search of Geumsuwon on Wednesday and Thursday.
Prosecutors said that they will question Shin about whether she helped Yoo flee, what other sect adherents did and, most importantly, the possible escape route and whereabouts of Yoo. Also, they will be interrogating her 34-year-old daughter, surnamed Park, who is believed to have helped Yoo Byung-eun’s eldest son Yoo Dae-gyun evade arrest.
BY KIM BONG-MOON [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Correction and rebuttal statement by the Evangelical Baptist Church
The Korea JoongAng Daily, regarding the reports since April 16, 2014, about the Evangelical Baptist Church (EBC) and Yoo Byung-eun, is publishing the following corrections and an excerpt from the rebuttal statement by the EBC.
Through three past investigations by the prosecution, it has been revealed that Yoo and the EBC, also known as the “Salvation Group” and Guwonpa in Korean, are not related to the Odaeyang mass suicide incident. That was also confirmed by the prosecution in its official statement on May 21. The prosecution’s investigation also found that Yoo had not made an attempt to smuggle himself out of the country or seek political asylum in France. We, therefore, correct the concerned reports.
Yoo retired from his executive management position in 1997. He did not own any shares in the noted companies, nor had he managed operations or used the operating funds for personal reasons. There are no grounds to call him the actual owner and chairman of the company. As such, he did not provide any directives in regards to the overloading of the Sewol ferry or its renovation.
It was verified that the captain and crew members who abandoned ship at the time of the Sewol ferry accident are not members of the EBC. It has also been verified that the EBC does not own any shares of Chonghaejin Marine Company and did not engage in its management.
The EBC’s position is that the museums in the United States and Europe can never authorize an exhibition unless the artistic value of an artist’s works is recognized by the screening committee, irrespective of the amount of money an artist donates. The EBC’s position is that the exhibitions were not a result of Mr. Yoo’s patronage or donation, and Yoo also has not coerced Chonghaejin and its affiliates to purchase his photos.
The EBC states that Yoo did not participate in the foundation of the EBC in 1981, and the church does not offer him the title “pastor.” It also says a significant part of the 240 billion won ($206 million) worth of assets suspected of belonging to the Yoo family are real estate properties owned by the farming associations, which had been established by church members.
The EBC states that there are certain churches in Korea that call the EBC a cult, solely based on differences between their’s and the EBC’s doctrines.
But the EBC does not worship a particular individual as a religious sect leader or preach any doctrine that contradicts the Bible.